Central Asia is a unique destination that is opening up more and more to travelers. Exotic and unique countries that will tax the sturdiest of traveler such as Kurdistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and others known collectively as “the five Stans” are becoming popular and affordable destinations that create a sense adventure in just the planning. This part of the world, known as the Silk Road because of the ancient silk trading routes that led from various Asian and Mediterranean countries to China, is beginning to see more and more Western tourists in search of a new destination.
The Five Stans themselves are Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgzystan, Kazahkstan and Tajikistan. Three of the five countries require visas prior to entry, which can be a daunting and expensive task (approximately $500 per person). Some tour providers which do this trip, such as East Site Travels, take care of the visas for the passenger to prevent a long and tiresome process. Other companies, such as MIR, offer Central Asia trips almost exclusively. The venerable Overseas Adventure Travels recently announced a 30 day trip to the five Stans which would include three of the Stans as post and pre trips for 15 days for both, and Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan as the base trip for 16 days. Other companies offer this adventures for around 23 days.
Another way to see Central Asia is to focus on Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, which are part of the Caucasus Mountains region. Also popular and very reasonably priced is a tour of just Uzbekistan in depth. Aside from the obvious and beautiful mosques, Uzbekistan has had Jewish history for centuries and still has a Jewish community and Jewish community center, and was a haven for refugees during World War Two. Much of the Jewish population has since migrated, but many have remained.
For many countries in Central Asia, the tourist infrastructure there can be very raw, and an otherwise very good tour can get poor reviews because the travelers can be expecting something that didn’t exist, and the plans keep getting changed. This is one region where the spirit of adventure is of utmost importance. It is also important to realize not all “Stans” are friendly to American tourists, such as Afghanistan and Pakistan, and many of these countries are not easy to traverse without an organized tour group, if not downright impossible. Having once been part of the former Soviet Union, they are filled with red tape and language barriers. In some cases they do not allow their tourists to roam around unescorted.
For more information, contact East Site Travel, MIR, Explore Worldwide, and Overseas Adventure Travel. They each have unique offerings to Central Asia or will shortly, and will provide a trip for the adventurous and discerning traveler.
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